Shakespeare Geek is Coming To Stratford

When people learn about the Shakespeare thing with me, the first question I’m asked is, “What’s your favorite play?” The answer is, “The Tempest.”

The second is, “Have you ever been to Stratford?” The answer is, “Not yet.”

That answer is about to change.

I am thrilled to announce that after running Shakespeare Geek for almost fourteen years now, it looks like our stars have aligned and the SG family will be vacationing in England this summer!  For years I’ve put it off, for a number of reasons.  Mostly because my wife actually went to England right before we got married, with her own family, and given how many places there are in the world that we haven’t seen, I wouldn’t want to make her go someplace she’s already been. That feels selfish to me. No matter how big a deal it would be for me, I don’t like putting myself ahead of my family.

Then a funny thing happened. My kids grew up. Do you want to know what they say when my wife asks where they think we should go on vacation? They say, “We’ve got to get Daddy to see Shakespeare’s birthplace.”  So basically my whole family got together and said, “It’s ok, we all want to go.”

(Just to put some icing on the cake, I got an unexpected bonus at work that’s going to help pay for the trip!  Not everything to be sure, but when Fortune says, “Dude, you’ve always wanted to go, your family wants you to take them, and here look it’s not going to be as expensive as you thought it was,” you go!)

Now comes the fun part – planning.  I am well aware that Stratford is pure tourist central and that I should brace myself for disappointment over just how gaudy it is.  I mean, come on, even Thomas Jefferson and John Adams said as much, 200 years ago.  But I am hoping that I’ve got a secret weapon that not everybody has…namely, you fine folks.

Depending on how you count, I’ve got somewhere north of twenty thousand followers who are potentially reading this. Many of you work in the business (academically or professionally). To you, it might be a regular occurrence to see shows at the Globe or visit the Birthplace. Or run into Stanley Wells or Ben Crystal or Gregory Doran on a regular basis.

But to me, this is likely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m treating it as such. Those places and those people are a big deal to me. To steal from Dead Poet’s Society, I want to go to Stratford “because I want to live deliberately. I want to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” How can I just say, “Oh look, there’s Shakespeare’s birthplace” along with a thousand other people? I’ve got most of my life telling people that “Shakespeare makes life better” and I’m about to walk into the center of the Shakespeare universe. I am prepared for the possibility that I might explode.

So consider this me asking for your assistance.  What should I do? I am wide open at the moment, and looking for literally any and all info. Where should we stay? What should we see? How long should we take?  Is there anything special we might be able to get into that is not part of the regular “everybody gets to do this” itinerary?

We are looking at the last week of August, based on work and summer camp schedules. Of course my wife and kids are going to want to go see the regular London sites, visit the castles, all that sort of thing.  But we all know that the first priority is Shakespeare, and I want to make it a trip to remember for a lifetime.

11 thoughts on “Shakespeare Geek is Coming To Stratford

  1. Elizabeth R says:

    It’s been several years since I was there, but the sidewalks roll up about 5:30 pm or 6 pm in Stratford. So you might want to do some research beforehand as far as what you want to do for your evening meal. Not too many places open in the evening.

    1. Brian Gillett says:

      Most restaurants are open till 10pm. There are many pubs open later as well. There are plenty of options for evening meals

    2. I have no idea what “the sidewalks roll up” means, but it sounds neat!

  2. If you are going to London and want to see a play at the Globe, I’ve heard that you need to make reservations wayyyyyy ahead of time! I don’t think it’s possible to just go and buy a ticket, you have to plan it out.

    Sorry I’m not more helpful. I’m really jealous; is that helpful? 😀

  3. There are FIVE houses related to Shakespeare. You can do them all in a day but might be better over 2 days. Mary Arden’s farm is a delight if the weather is nice. A working Tudor farm.
    Try to get RSC Tickets in advance as they don’t have many last minute tickets. This summer is As you Like it and Taming of the Shrew or Measure for Measure – all playing till the end of August.
    The Dirty Duck pub is a must for a drink. That’s where the actors hang out after a show.
    Lot’s of Bed and Breakfast type places to stay or more expensive hotels. We use “The Emsley” bed and Breakfast which is 5 minutes from the birthplace.

  4. RSC actors sometimes are found at the Dirty Duck / Black swan down the street from the RSC theatre.

    I also suggest the Garrick Inn and the Old Thatch Tavern.

    There are plenty of places to see related to Shakespeare. Trinity Church and the statues by the canal are a must.

    Further afield (non-Shakespeare) Warwick Castle is too touristy in my opinion, but Kenilworth Castle was worth a trip. Or if wanting to go a bit further but towards Wales, Tintern abbey, Chepstow Castle, and Goodrich Castle are favorites.

    Also a day trip to the Cotswolds is a possiblity.

  5. I love it all! More! Keep the ideas coming, this is literally all new to me!

  6. I took my first trip to England in late May / early June 2018 and I had a nearly perfect time! I loved it all, but I felt most comfortable in Stratford-upon-Avon and seeing the RSC was the highlight – much better than the Globe, which is unfortunately under a jet plane route. There are no bad seats at the RSC and the pre-performance dinner in their restaurant was a little pricey, but well worth it. I stayed at the White Swan, which was the best accommodation I had. Yes, the streets are quiet in the evening after the theatre, but I found it a pleasant break after the always-awake London. I hope you and your family have as good a trip as I…

  7. Jon Fraser says:

    Duane, it’s Jon from England, I’ve commented on a few of your posts over the years. I live about an hour from Stratford and am a big Shakespeare fan. I’d be happy to meet and point you in a few directions when you’re over here if you wish.

    If you’re flying into London, it’s worth stopping and seeing a play at the Globe – you must book ahead though; they’ve just announced the summer season on the website. If you can handle it I’d recommend the authentic ‘groundling’ experience of standing for only £5 a ticket- you’re closer to the action and there’s interaction with the actors. You can do a tour and the shop is good as well.

    In Stratford: again, book ahead. All seats are good but be aware that in the circle some seats are behind posts. The website usually allows you a view from the seat and some are marked ‘restricted view’.

    I’ve often seen Greg Doran and Antony Sher in the audience at the RSC, particularly if it’s a play that Greg’s directing. And if you go to one of the early preview performances a) tickets are cheaper (the show’s just as good) and b) he’ll almost certainly be there. You can catch the actors outside the stage door after the show and, as other have posted, many of the cast pop to the Dirty Duck for a pint. I’ve seen Patrick Stewart in the afternoon at the Arden Hotel having coffee before an evening playing Shylock.

    The main stage is where the Shakespeare will be playing but try to see if you can stick your nose in the door and see the Swan Theatre as well – it’s a more intimate space and I’ve seen some great shows there over the years.

    Visit the tower at the theatre – it’s not expensive (£3), great views of Stratford from the top and there are lots of photos from previous RSC shows all the way up. Also at the moment there’s an exhibition called ‘The Play’s The Thing’ with stories from over 100 years of plays. This costs £8.50. Also, I’m sure you’ll love the gift shop, with lots of Shakespeare stuff; in general and in particular related to the plays being shown.

    Accommodation in Stratford: plenty at all prices. Top end is the Arden Hotel directly opposite the theatre, also very good is the black & white timbered ‘Shakespeare Hotel’ in Chapel Street (now operated by Mercure) with lovely four poster beds and rooms named after Shakespeare characters. Lots of reasonably-priced B&B’s also.

    Eating: the RSC restaurant is good but expensive. Lots of restaurants in Sheep Street, all offering a pre-theatre menu. Around the corner No. 9 Church Street is my favourite. Happy to offer further recommendations. Lots of pubs in town as well. The oldest – The Garrick – looks good outside and is good for a photo but nothing special inside.

    Shakespeare’s family homes: 5 to visit: the Birthplace, New Place, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage – you can get a reduced price ticket that is good value if you plan to visit all 5.
    Also see the grave at Holy Trinity Church; entrance to the church is free but it’s £3 to see the grave. Don’t miss the famous Gower monument to Shakespeare by the canal.

    Now here’s the icing on the cake for you: I work for the local Government in Worcestershire, next door to Warwickshire and our archive office in Worcester holds in its vaults the original marriage bond between William and Anne from 1582. Guess what? My friend is the archive manager – I can arrange for you to have a private viewing if you have the time.

    Happy to offer any further suggestions if necessary. I’m sure that you’ll have a fantastic trip!



  8. Thanks everybody for the input! I had to pick myself up off the floor when I read your comment to the end, Jon! That would be amazing. Knowing nothing about the geographic situation over there (i.e how far everything is from everything else) I’m not yet sure what I have time for, but if the laws of the physical universe can be bent to make it happen, I’m up for it. Please feel free to followup with me at [email protected] so we can look into taking you up on your offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *